The Last Bison
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
With folksy fervor and acoustic eclecticism, The Last Bison charge onto the Americana scene with the release of their excellent, second full-length record, Inheritance. The seven member-group, based outside of Chesapeake, Virginia, blends rootsy arrangements with classical sensibilities to offer their unique spin on indie folk.
After a recent name change from Bison to The Last Bison, the band delivers on their debut for a major label, Universal Records. With ensemble precision, funky instrumentation, and a clutch of stirring songs, they bridge several genres, e.g., folk, bluegrass, and classical in the rustic vein of Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers. Songwriter and singer-guitarist Ben Hardesty leads his family/band members, including his father and sister, into the loping, up-tempo “Switzerland”, the first single, which crests with a rowdy stomp of a singalong and ends in a whisper. Though most of the songs are new, several were cherry-picked from their first indie disc, Quill, and rerecorded for the new label transition.
What separates The Last Bison from their more famous peers is the classical grace that breathes through the melodies and sweep of these energetic songs, blooming into elegant crescendos of violin, cello, xylophone, banjo, mandolin, and bass drum. Not to mention the aid of a 75-year old organ, and percussive Bolivian goat toenails thrown in for good luck. What else could you need? Hardesty’s gruff tenor carries a big part of the load, and he easily slides into falsetto phrasing for the lyrical hooks. The familial choir of voices echo in lush, refined harmonies, especially on the haunting “Take all the Time.” The verses in “Autumn Snow,” a gorgeous, yearning hymn, unwind in delicate rhythms of chiming acoustic guitar and cello. They sound like a band very comfortable in their own skin, and much of that comes from constant touring and kinship. With its passionate embrace of multiple genres and sheer musicianship, Inheritance places the The Last Bison on the cusp of much bigger things.